Sunday, May 20 , 2018, 6:32 am | Fair 52º


Old Spanish Days Come Early to Crane Country Day School

Crane Country Day School “Viva Crane” fundraiser sponsorship co-chairs Daryl Stegall and Emily Jones, benefit co-chairs Kelly Bilek and Rachael Stein, and underwriting chair Noelle Wolf.
Crane Country Day School “Viva Crane” fundraiser sponsorship co-chairs Daryl Stegall and Emily Jones, benefit co-chairs Kelly Bilek and Rachael Stein, and underwriting chair Noelle Wolf. (Teresa Pietsch photo)

Crane Country Day School in Montecito celebrated Hispanic cultures and traditions with its May 2 benefit themed “Viva Crane,” which raised money to support school programs and operations at Crane.

The Crane campus was completely transformed into a bright, colorful fiesta setting, with Latin-inspired decorations and details provided by scores of parent volunteers.

Teachers, administrators and parents dressed festively, as toreadores (bullfighters), charros and flamenco dancers. The incoming “El Presidente” of Fiesta 2016, J.C. Gordon, a Crane parent, came dressed in the traditional attire of a charro, or Mexican cowboy. He said he appreciates how “Crane recognizes the culture and traditions of the early years of Santa Barbara, in the same way that Old Spanish Days does.”

The local Zermeño Dance Academy performed authentic flamenco dances, showcasing the recently crowned Sprit of Fiesta 2015, Alexandra Freres, as well as dancer Mia Lomeli, a Crane “lifer” who attended Crane from Kindergarten through her eighth-grade graduation last year (Mia’s mother, Christina Lomeli, is a former Crane trustee).

Crane parents Kelly Bilek and Rachael Stein co-chaired the event, bedecking the Montecito campus with hundreds of giant, multi-colored tissue paper flowers, hand-made by more than 100 parent and staff volunteers. Walls of colorful satin ribbons hung in archways, enhancing the entrances to the brightly decorated courtyards. Papel picado, a rainbow of perforated banners often displayed at traditional weddings and parties, was suspended in rows above the outdoor seating area.

In coming up with the theme for the event, Stein said, “Kelly and I were inspired by images from Santa Barbara’s annual Fiesta.” Stein said they chose to name this year’s benefit “Viva Crane” because when they think of Old Spanish Days, they remember people shouting “Viva!” or “Vívala!”

Crane fiesta
Jamie Gordon and 2016 Fiesta president and former gala co-chair J.C. Gordon. (Teresa Pietsch photo)

Much of the funds were raised by the live and silent auctions. Among the silent auction items were large-scale craft projects produced by one entire grade of students. Crane’s fifth-grade class, for example, created an oversized wood-relief “Tree of Life” inspired by the traditional ceramic methods of central Mexico.

The 10-piece Anthony Prieto Band, a local music group from Santa Barbara, played its own soul-influenced Latin music in a colorfully decorated courtyard, where guests danced into the evening. Lead vocalist Prieto is a former trustee, alumni parent and current coach at Crane.

The evening’s program also featured a video celebrating the Gama Family, a local family whose parents work at Crane and whose daughters all attended Crane. The Gamas prepare an extensive hot taco lunch from scratch and serve it to the entire school twice a year, an event marked in bold on many Crane calendars. Teachers and students say the delicious “Gama Lunches” are not to be missed. During the “paddle raise,” which generated funds for a shade structure over the outdoor lunch area, Crane’s headmaster, Joel Weiss, spontaneously decided to name the shade structure the “Gama Family Shade Structure” in honor of the Gama Family’s years of involvement with the Crane community.

While planning the gala, Bilek and Stein learned about the authentic art of the Otomi people, an indigenous group from the central plateau region of Mexico. With the help of local graphic designer Lorie Bacon, they used the Otomi style to create an original design for the invitation featuring coyotes, the Crane mascot.

“We wanted to celebrate as many different aspects of Hispanic culture as possible and to honor the Latino community — not just Crane — but the entire diverse community of Santa Barbara,” Stein said.

Major sponsors and donors were Ella and Scott Brittingham, Gay and Tony Browne, Elizabeth and Lee Gabler, Randi Miller and Terry Cunningham, Jillian and Peter Muller, Noelle and Dick Wolf, and Leslie and Robert Zemeckis. Benefit committee chairs were Jen Abed, Tracy Kanowsky and Nancy O’Connor (live auction), and Missy Ryan and Liz Schulhof (silent auction).

— Kathy Rogers represents Crane Country Day School.

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